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Sunday, March 26, 2006


Marriage is for White People

'Marriage Is for White People'
By Joy JonesSunday, March 26, 2006; B01
I grew up in a time when two-parent families were still the norm, in both black and white America. Then, as an adult, I saw divorce become more commonplace, then almost a rite of passage. Today it would appear that many -- particularly in the black community -- have dispensed with marriage altogether.
But as a black woman, I have witnessed the outrage of girlfriends when the ex failed to show up for his weekend with the kids, and I've seen the disappointment of children who missed having a dad around. Having enjoyed a close relationship with my own father, I made a conscious decision that I wanted a husband, not a live-in boyfriend and not a "baby's daddy," when it came my time to mate and marry.
My time never came.
For years, I wondered why not. And then some 12-year-olds enlightened me.
"Marriage is for white people."
That's what one of my students told me some years back when I taught a career exploration class for sixth-graders at an elementary school in Southeast Washington. I was pleasantly surprised when the boys in the class stated that being a good father was a very important goal to them, more meaningful than making money or having a fancy title.
"That's wonderful!" I told my class. "I think I'll invite some couples in to talk about being married and rearing children."
"Oh, no," objected one student. "We're not interested in the part about marriage. Only about how to be good fathers."
And that's when the other boy chimed in, speaking as if the words left a nasty taste in his mouth: "Marriage is for white people."
He's right. At least statistically. The marriage rate for African Americans has been dropping since the 1960s, and today, we have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in the United States. In 2001, according to the U.S. Census, 43.3 percent of black men and 41.9 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4 percent and 20.7 percent respectively for whites. African American women are the least likely in our society to marry. In the period between 1970 and 2001, the overall marriage rate in the United States declined by 17 percent; but for blacks, it fell by 34 percent. Such statistics have caused Howard University relationship therapist Audrey Chapman to point out that African Americans are the most uncoupled people in the country.
How have we gotten here? What has shifted in African American customs, in our community, in our consciousness, that has made marriage seem unnecessary or unattainable?
Although slavery was an atrocious social system, men and women back then nonetheless often succeeded in establishing working families. In his account of slave life and culture, "Roll, Jordan, Roll," historian Eugene D. Genovese wrote: "A slave in Georgia prevailed on his master to sell him to Jamaica so that he could find his wife, despite warnings that his chances of finding her on so large an island were remote. . . . Another slave in Virginia chopped his left hand off with a hatchet to prevent being sold away from his son." I was stunned to learn that a black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents during slavery days than he or she is today, according to sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin.
Traditional notions of family, especially the extended family network, endure. But working mothers, unmarried couples living together, out-of-wedlock births, birth control, divorce and remarriage have transformed the social landscape. And no one seems to feel this more than African American women. One told me that with today's changing mores, it's hard to know "what normal looks like" when it comes to courtship, marriage and parenthood. Sex, love and childbearing have become a la carte choices rather than a package deal that comes with marriage. Moreover, in an era of brothers on the "down low," the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and the decline of the stable blue-collar jobs that black men used to hold, linking one's fate to a man makes marriage a risky business for a black woman.
"A woman who takes that step is bold and brave," one young single mother told me. "Women don't want to marry because they don't want to lose their freedom."
Among African Americans, the desire for marriage seems to have a different trajectory for women and men. My observation is that black women in their twenties and early thirties want to marry and commit at a time when black men their age are more likely to enjoy playing the field. As the woman realizes that a good marriage may not be as possible or sustainable as she would like, her focus turns to having a baby, or possibly improving her job status, perhaps by returning to school or investing more energy in her career.
As men mature, and begin to recognize the benefits of having a roost and roots (and to feel the consequences of their risky bachelor behavior), they are more willing to marry and settle down. By this time, however, many of their female peers are satisfied with the lives they have constructed and are less likely to settle for marriage to a man who doesn't bring much to the table. Indeed, he may bring too much to the table: children and their mothers from previous relationships, limited earning power, and the fallout from years of drug use, poor health care, sexual promiscuity. In other words, for the circumspect black woman, marriage may not be a business deal that offers sufficient return on investment.
In the past, marriage was primarily just such a business deal. Among wealthy families, it solidified political alliances or expanded land holdings. For poorer people, it was a means of managing the farm or operating a household. Today, people have become economically self-sufficient as individuals, no longer requiring a spouse for survival. African American women have always had a high rate of labor-force participation. "Why should well-salaried women marry?" asked black feminist and author Alice Dunbar-Nelson as early as 1895. But now instead of access only to low-paying jobs, we can earn a breadwinner's wage, which has changed what we want in a husband. "Women's expectations have changed dramatically while men's have not changed much at all," said one well-paid working wife and mother. "Women now say, 'Providing is not enough. I need more partnership.' "
The turning point in my own thinking about marriage came when a longtime friend proposed about five years ago. He and I had attended college together, dated briefly, then kept in touch through the years. We built a solid friendship, which I believe is a good foundation for a successful marriage.
But -- if we had married, I would have had to relocate to the Midwest. Been there, done that, didn't like it. I would have had to become a stepmother and, although I felt an easy camaraderie with his son, stepmotherhood is usually a bumpy ride. I wanted a house and couldn't afford one alone. But I knew that if I was willing to make some changes, I eventually could.
As I reviewed the situation, I realized that all the things I expected marriage to confer -- male companionship, close family ties, a house -- I already had, or were within reach, and with exponentially less drama. I can do bad by myself, I used to say as I exited a relationship. But the truth is, I can do pretty good by myself, too.
Most single black women over the age of 30 whom I know would not mind getting married, but acknowledge that the kind of man and the quality of marriage they would like to have may not be likely, and they are not desperate enough to simply accept any situation just to have a man. A number of my married friends complain that taking care of their husbands feels like having an additional child to raise. Then there's the fact that marriage apparently can be hazardous to the health of black women. A recent study by the Institute for American Values, a nonpartisan think tank in New York City, indicates that married African American women are less healthy than their single sisters.
By design or by default, black women cultivate those skills that allow them to maintain themselves (or sometimes even to prosper) without a mate.
"If Jesus Christ bought me an engagement ring, I wouldn't take it," a separated thirty-something friend told me. "I'd tell Jesus we could date, but we couldn't marry."
And here's the new twist. African American women aren't the only ones deciding that they can make do alone. Often what happens in black America is a sign of what the rest of America can eventually expect. In his 2003 book, "Mismatch: The Growing Gulf between Women and Men," Andrew Hacker noted that the structure of white families is evolving in the direction of that of black families of the 1960s. In 1960, 67 percent of black families were headed by a husband and wife, compared to 90.9 percent for whites. By 2000, the figure for white families had dropped to 79.8 percent. Births to unwed white mothers were 22.5 percent in 2001, compared to 2.3 percent in 1960. So my student who thought marriage is for white people may have to rethink that in the future.
Still, does this mean that marriage is going the way of the phonograph and the typewriter ribbon?
"I hope it isn't," said one friend who's been married for seven years. "The divorce rate is 50 percent, but people remarry. People want to be married. I don't think it's going out of style."
A black male acquaintance had a different prediction. "I don't believe marriage is going to be extinct, but I think you'll see fewer people married," he said. "It's a bad thing. I believe it takes the traditional family -- a man and a woman -- to raise kids." He has worked with troubled adolescents, and has observed that "the girls who are in the most trouble and who are abused the most -- the father is absent. And the same is true for the boys, too." He believes that his presence and example in the home is why both his sons decided to marry when their girlfriends became pregnant.
But human nature being what it is, if marriage is to flourish -- in black or white America -- it will have to offer an individual woman something more than a business alliance, a panacea for what ails the community, or an incubator for rearing children. As one woman said, "If it weren't for the intangibles, the allure of the lovey-dovey stuff, I wouldn't have gotten married. The benefits of marriage are his character and his caring. If not for that, why bother?"
Joy Jones, a Washington writer, is the author of "Between Black Women: Listening With the Third Ear" (African American Images).
© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Monday, March 13, 2006


Purim Torah

Purim Torah
In the book of Esther, after Haman is hung, Mordecai and Esther
request from the king to rescind the decree that was sent out to destroy the
Jews. The king responds that any decree that goes out with the seal of the
king can not be rescinded, but a new decree could be written. Therefore, a
new decree encouraging the Jews to stand up for their lives was sent out. We
see from this that when a judgment cannot be changed or rescinded, a new one
can supersede the previous decree making it in effect null and void.
There are times in our lives when past consequences or judgments for
our actions catch up to us. What can we do at that time? We are told in the
Talmud that teshuvah, the life changing act of sincere repentance, when
motivated by fear of punishment, has the retroactive power of turning
purposeful sins into inadvertent mistakes. More than this though is teshuvah
when motivated by love, which can even turn past purposeful sins into
The incredible power of teshuva, to not only change the present and
affect the future, but even "change" the past, is one of the many secrets of
Purim. This is one of the reasons why the Talmud says that Yom HaKippurim,
the culmination of the ten days of teshuva, should be read Yom (a day)
K'(like) Purim. This astounding statement comparing Yom Kippur, the holiest
day of the year, to a seemingly “fun’ day like Purim, captures the essence
of what Purim really is - the ability to completely turn around our lives
even when all seems lost.
The power of teshuva at the time of Purim was activated when Esther
realized she must be ready to sacrifice her life if necessary in order to
plead the case of the Jews before the king. That act of supreme self
sacrifice and teshuva, coupled with her call for all Jews in the capital
city of Shushan to fast with her for three days and nights, aroused Divine
compassion from Above, turning the plans of Haman upside down, till he was
hung on the very same tree he hoped to hang Mordecai. From this we learn the
incredible power of one person and one community to change a seemingly
unchangeable judgment and alter the momentum of a chain of events. This
total reversal of fortune is captured by the words ­ nahafoch hu - “to
completely turn around;” meaning that the day of Purim was changed from a
day of possible holocaust to that of unbounded joy and celebration.
The process of nahafoch hu can be seen on many different levels. Purim
occurs during the month of Adar, the last month of the year. At this time of
the year, after the long and seemingly endless winter it sometimes feels
like spring will never come. But on Purim we realize there will indeed be
spring and new life and renewal, therefore Purim comes on the full moon
exactly one month before Pesach and "official” spring. According to both
nature and the inner psyche of man, no month is harder to feel joy - but
nahafoch hu! In history, as well, we see how many times the Jewish people
in countless situations, communities, and generations faced to all
appearances insurmountable odds and circumstances - but again and again ­
nahafoch hu.
All the above ideas have one common theme. At the very moment when we
feel all is lost, there is contained within every Jew the power to utterly
change his or her circumstances. Like a seed in the ground that must
completely rot before new life can germinate, the secret of transformation
involves contacting the Divine "nothing" within us in order to be filled by
God's "something," thus releasing new hope and potential from our most inner
point of being, where we realize that the soul is "a part of God Above."
When we call out to God from the depths of our being, Divine compassion is
awakened. This is the secret in the Book of Esther where the sleep of the
king is disturbed. The Sages understood that the fasting and prayers of the
Jewish people wakened God (so to speak), the King of Kings. It is from this
point that the story turns around.
The excess drinking of wine on Purim also involves the energy of
nahafoch hu, as usually too much wine dulls our senses, puts us to sleep and
at a certain stage is a depressant. On Purim we take the potentially
destructive energy of wine and turn it into pure joy, expanded consciousness
and awakening to the Divine hiding behind every mask. We completely
transform the outward appearance of the feast of Ahashverosh, as described
in the beginning of the Book of Esther, and turn it into the ecstatic joy
and holiness of the Purim feast.
The fact that God's name is not mentioned in the book of Esther and
that Divine salvation occurred through seemingly ordinary means, demands a
more profound understanding than even a miracle that occurs when the laws of
nature are temporarily suspended. It also leads to a deeper perception of
"reality." On Purim, physical and spiritual reality unite, free will and
Divine Providence merge and human history is revealed as identical to God's
plan for humanity. The fact that this reality is at times hard to comprehend
only means we have to work harder to find the ultimate unity that exists in
the world. The drinking on Purim helps us pull back the normative curtain of
illusionary reality and reveals God's Providence in all places and at all
times, even those occurrences we initially perceive as “evil.” But this
takes getting to a consciousness where all becomes known within the
unknowable, ad d'lo yada.
The word Purim comes from the word "lots," implying causality,
coincidence and luck, which is the superficial way many look at the world.
Our task on Purim is to do teshuva in such a manner that we make our will
His will, so he can make His will our will, thereby revealing His presence
in every point of time and space.
The story of Purim is alive and as relevant as ever in the world today
- the same assimilation exists that lead us to eat at the feast of
Ahashverosh, those who want to destroy us like Haman are in abundance, world
leaders like Ahashverosh still play a two-faced political game in regards to
Israel, and then there are those like Mordecai and Esther who live and are
ready to die for their Jewish identity.
If there ever was a time for the Jewish people to call out to God and
come together as Esther gathered the people together - it is now. If we came
together and cried out from our deepest depths to God, for the sake of the
Jewish people and the whole world, surely a nahafoch hu would occur that
would ultimately bring the Messiah.
It is just a matter of time when we will in fact do this, but what time
could be better than now, as Hillel taught: "If not now - when?"(Pirkei Avot

Ohr Chadash
Rabbi Avraham Arieh & Rachel Trugman
tel: 972-8-9265-247
fax: 972-8-9265-448
email: trugman@netvision.net.il
website: www.thetrugmans.com

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Pigs fly, Valley freezes over

I found this while surfing...

"Pigs fly, Valley freezes over
1-2 punch of rain, snow knocks out record dry streak" Arizona Republic (Phoenix)

just in case you didn't know, heavy snow is unknown in Phoenix, desert city where it barely rains!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Answers to Questions by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Answers to Questions
By Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi [sent to me without the questions -- make up your own!]

1. The term "paradigm shift" is used to describe a newly emerging way of looking at reality. When the patch jobs on old reality maps, like the Ptolemean (ca 100 BCE) world view (which saw Earth as the center of the Universe) no longer works and it has become essential to design a new one, like that of Copernicus, (that the Earth revolves around the sun,) we have a paradigm shift. A mind-move of such proportions has taken place that it represents not a mere adjustment of the old paradigm, correcting a detail here and another there, but rather a radically changed Weltanschauung. Our faith treasures are independent of the reality maps with which they have become combined. Even though a paradigm no longer works, many people hold on with desperate tenacity to what has become obsolete. A major shift of reality-view threatens to unbalance everything. So much of our assumptions and behaviors depend on these paradigms. But once we delaminate our faith-treasures from the earlier maps, we can connect these treasures of tradition to new maps. Judaism has undergone several such "paradigm shifts": one with Abraham and the Patriarchs, Moses and the First Temple, another after the destruction of the First Temple and and an even greater one after the Churban of the Second Temple, when all of our practice and belief had to be reframed. Auschwitz, Hiroshima and the moon walk have instigated yet another such shift and I write about that. In this book I offer the journey of my own recontextualization of Judaism as helped by Jewish Mysticism.

2. Jewish Renewal, differs from Restoration, which seeks to hold on to the last paradigm. People in Jewish Renewal do not want to abandon sacred and cherished traditions to toss them out along with outworn cosmologies. We are now privy to information which floods us with wonder at the view of a wider and ever more complex cosmos, and we don't want to put our minds in pawn as the price of our staying wedded to our tradition. Still, we look to fill our spiritual needs as experienced in the present with a maximum of tradition. To make this happen we have to retrofit our spiritual technology to the demands of our era. We are sensitive to feminism, human potential, ecology and Whole Earth thinking.

3. Mostly about the issue "what right have you got to modify a long standing and Divinely revealed tradition?". My response is that revelation continues in the present. We are as much at the service of Divine revelation as earlier generations were. We have at this time an additional task, and furthermore, we are aware that we have a task. So we feel our inadequacy - after all, how can we undertake this "updating"?. Yet those who may be better equipped don't perceive this as a need - so it devolves upon us.

4. There was no one pivotal moment with its special theophany. The process was gradual. There was a long series of these epiphanies, often unrelated to one another and the effect was cumulative. And - this is crucial - making sense of these "aha" moments. takes first of all an introspective attitude as well as some meditative and contemplative training. In this way I kept revising and readjusting my credo. I grew through adolescence during the Holocaust years. In the midst of hopelessness I saw glimses of the Presence to which I pledged my life. This created a dynamic tension causing me to hold fast to both doubt and faith. The process was amplified by other experiences: by meeting great souls, by deep prayer and by the struggle we call Godwrestling.

5. Critics of Kabbalah will keep criticizing those who teach it. Their criteria are largely ideological, intellectual and rationalistic ones. In those circles, preoccupation with Kabbalah is too reminiscent of the deranged Chanan of "The Dybbuk" and was thought dangerous. Still smarting from the excesses of the Sabbateans and the Frankists, followers of pseudo-messiahs, they felt the need to defend themselves from an unstable, reality-denying mysticism. Today our situation is different. As one encounters souls in process, one marvels at the amount of inner knowledge and sensitivity they possess. In my own adolescent searches I was blessed to find those who listened seriously to my questions, and encouraged me to reach for answers that matched my inner learning, my in-tuition. So I find that those who honor this direct knowing will not place obstacles in the path of the seeker. The people I teach are often of much greater soul sophistication than those who have heaps of traditional book learning. The established institutions of Jewish education did not know how to cope with the issues that agitated many of the young of the post-Holocaust generation. They went to look elsewhere for their spiritual nourishment, and found in a variety of places e.g. Zen, Vedanta, psychedelics etc.. Hungry to relate the reality of the experiences to their ancestral tradition, they found very few who could honor their questions and answer them. Most members of the established leadership had not had these experiences and could not relate to them. The exoteric-ideological stance of the establishment repelled the seekers. Traditional esoteric teachers demanded that the seekers relinquish and deny their sacred encounters outside of the tradition and begin basic observances, first acquire Hebrew and study the basic text and only after they were sure of their loyaly to traditional Torah Hashkafah would offer them a smidgin of our treasures. There is a concept of T'shuvah, repentance, turning, that is from below to above, and this is what the traditional teachers demanded from the seekers. This is also how many of the returnees have made their way back. There is, however, also the concept of the T'shuvah from above. In that thrust one connects first the higher centers of ones being and later, when one is in relationship with God, one implements what one needs from the tradition to round out ones life. There are now countless individuals and families that have taken the second route and many of these are the members of Havurot and connected with Jewish Renewal.

6. I don't want to answer the question as posed. In fact I find it hard to see how anyone who longs to hasten the process of redemption can answer the question as posed, since we know that a prerequisite for the coming of Moshiach is the unity of Klall Yisroel and the phrasing of such a question results in divisiveness. In 1943 I experienced a surge of imminent messianic expectation when the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yossef Yitzchak Schneersohn issued his apocalyptic broadsides. Something messianic was indeed happening but it was not "The Moshiach". I honor Lubavitch-Chabad as the wonderful school from which I graduated and learned not only Davvenology and mysticism but also the urge to work in outreach and the training to do something about Jewish Renewal. This book is about the coming to an end of one era and the dawning of the new one , a paradigm shift.

7. Any thinking Jew who reads the New York Times, listens to N.P.R. or watches Carl Sagan's Cosmos or the McNeil - Lehrer report and wants to keep their Jewish life up-to-date, who has gained something from the Jewish Catalog and has looked over the fence to other forms of spirituality. In all likelihod the book will anger both those who think one must not change anything as well as those who want to change everything.

8. It was not my achievement that I have a foot in the past and a foot in the future, it was my given. I was uniquely placed to comprehend and bridge many worlds, both by historical events ad by personal disposition. My real achievement was in that I held fast to them both, often at great personal cost. This put me in a position to understand the complex struggles of the next generation and to teach them from an extraordinary vantage point. So my greatest achievement stretches beyond my person in the students who continue this work. A great variety of students, from Chassidic- Orthodox to secular humanist, have learned from me. I did not impose a mold on my students. They all felt empowered to follow the inclination of their own inner core and expressed what they had received and integrated in various ways. The range from those who identified themselves openly with Jewish Renewal to those who have quietly returned to their conventional congregations and mainstreamed what they learned, often without explicitely attributing the source. Our contributions simply blended in to the acceptable scene like the rainbow colored Tallit I designed. We created the Havurah movement and the Jewish Catalog which was the growing edge in the late 60's and 70's. Later in the 80's B'nai Or - (then called P'nai Or and now - Aleph Alliance), offered retreats, Kallot and institutes as well as Elat Hayyim, a Jewish Center for Healing and Renewal, a work which continues. The Wisdom School, which I conducted with my partner Eve Penner-Ilsen, was an outstanding effort to hot-house the Jewish Spirit with the emerging state of the art of contemporary psycho-technologies. I trained and ordained Jewish Renewal rabbis, initiated of the Eco-Kosher project, provided the stimulus for Shomrey Adamah, (the guardians of the Earth). We reached out to the disaffected and helped them to own their Judaism again. We invited them to bring and share whatever of value they had leaned to enrich our own traditional practice. All these are component parts of my life's work.

A Difference in ApproachBy Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Transcribed by Reuven Goldfarb with the assistance of Eliyahu (Khaled) McLean and Rabbi Pam Baugh and clarifying editorial input from Reb Zalman. Revised excerpt from an audio tape of the Farbrengen, an event featuring Rabbis Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Shlomo Carlebach, Z'Tz'L, co-sponsored by The Aquarian Minyan and the Berkeley Hillel Foundation, March 19, 1994. The following remarks are by Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi.

I. Used to be, when I would go to Israel, I would go up to a place outside of Nablus, called Balata. Balata was one of those "refugee camps." In Balata there lived Sidi Murshid Hassan, of blessed memory--Salah alaihu. Many of you were there that Yom Kippur afternoon [September 15, 1975/5736, Aquarian Minyan, Berkeley] when we did zikr with Murshid Hassan. Just as we were praying the Avodah where the High Priest enters the sanctuary, he came and led a zikr with us, and we, at that time, got as close as one can get to the inner sacred space.Alas, he passed on. Hardly any great and universalist Sufis around among Palestinians--only the hard-rock fundamentalists are around, and it's very hard to have dialogue with them. You see, I wish that we would again have our counterparts among Palestinians so that we would be able to do like we did at the time in Hevron, years ago.... We went to Hevron and there found the grave of Shibli, one of the Sufi saints. And there was an old blind Sheikh there (he sat there telling his beads), and when I came and sat in front of him, he turned to me--he had felt that I was there and asked me whether I knew Nur (Steve Durkee) and Mariam (another spiritual friend). I said, "Aiwa." Yes."What do you want?"I said, "I want to say zikr with you."And he said, "Then come, on Thursday at 4 o'clock."We came back, a whole group of us, on Thursday at 4 o'clock to that little shtiebele, the Zawiyah. And there the Sheikh sat on the side. And the Qadi of the mosque had come. He had this red fez with a white turban wrap around it, and he wanted to find out whether it's kosher for them to say zikr with us. We are trying to get to talk to each other, but there isn't a translator there. The young Arabs didn't want to admit that they knew Hebrew, so I couldn't give it over to them in Hebrew to translate into Arabic. So they brought the public health official, a doctor, to translate.He came in, and he hadn't said his afternoon prayers. So he began, "Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar," and, standing at his side, I said the prayers along with him. He finished his prayers, and then comes the hearing. And at the hearing, they say,"Who sent you?"I respond, "The One, be He Blessed, Who sent our father Ibrahim out of Ur of the Chaldees.""What do you want?"I said, "I'm here to say zikr with you.""Why don't you go with your own people?"I said, "I davvened this morning with my own people.""So why do you want to say zikr with us?"I said, "Because when I'm outside of the Holy Land, I find my Ihwan, my brethren--Sufi brethren--to say zikr with them there, and to be in the Holy Land, and not to have a chance to say zikr, with you, is sad. I'd like to be able to say zikr with you.""Are you a Muslim?"I say, "La. Ana Mu'min." I'm a believer. I'm not a Muslim, I'm a believer.And they ask, "What do you believe in?"And I say, "Ash-hadu." I bear witness. "La illaha ill Allah al-ahad." There is no G-d but G-d, and that G-d is One.Okay. Not too bad."So, do you observe the Shariyat [the Muslim guide to righteous conduct, equivalent to the Halakhah]?" The Shulchan Aruch, you know? Do you know Shulchan Aruch?The term "Shuchan Aruch," "a prepared table," is also found in the Qur'an,where there is a Sura that's called "Ma'ida," which means "the prepared table," and in that Sura is written what Muslims may and may not eat. Do you hear that? There's a Sura called Shulchan Aruch in the Qur'an!So they ask me, "Do you observe the Shariyat?" I say, "Aiwa." Yes, I do."What level of Shariyat do you observe?"I say, "I observe the Shariyat of the banei Ishaq [and] the banei Yaqub." So he says to me, "Then why not follow the Shariyat of Islam?" I say, "Because it is not fitting, it isn't 'Adab,' it's not fitting for a son to go in paths different than his father. So I come from the banei Ishaq and banei Yaqub and not from the banei Ismail, and so I have to follow the Shariyat of my parents.""What about Tariqat?"So we were talking about the higher levels of the Sufi. I said, "With that, I'm with you at one."Then somebody gives a kick on the side and says, "Ask him! Ask him! What about Rasuliyat?" What has he got to say about Muhammed? Ah, they got me, ah!So I say, "Ash-hadu." I bear witness. "La illaha il Allah, wa Muhammed-ar Rasul'Illah." There is no G-d but Allah. Muhammed is His messenger.So they say to me, "Then you're a Muslim!"And I say, "La. Ana Yahud." No, I'm a Jew."Then how could you say, how could you say such a thing?"So I said, "Allow me to go back with you in your history. There was Ismail, he son of Ibrahim Khalil Allah, Abraham the friend of G-d. Ismail still had the Tawhid--the knowledge of the Oneness of G-d--but his children fell into the dark ages, into the jahiliya, into the unknowing. And so, they had lost their way to the Oneness of G-d. So, Ya Rahman, Ya Rahim, the Merciful, the Compassionate, sent out a messenger to the children of Ismail to bring them back to the Tawhid--to the Oneness. I believe that he was a true messenger."The Imam said, "I don't want to talk anymore. I want to say zikr with this man!"And they brought in the drums, and we start to say zikr.

II. Another time, in Hevron--and I want to talk about that because it hurts so much, you know; another time, in Hevron, there was a group of people that went on a pilgrimage with us. And we came to the tomb, and I said to the people, "Wait a little bit." And I went in to the Sheikh of the tomb. He has a little office there. And I said to him, "May I speak to you for a moment?" He speaks a very good English."Yes. What can I do for you?"I said, "I've come to ask your permission to do our pilgrimage here."He said, with a bitter heart, he said, "You need my permission?"--pointing to the guys with the Uzis outside.And I said, "You, and your family, and your ancestors, have been the keepers of this sacred tomb for all these years, and it isn't fitting that I should ignore that."He got up from behind his desk and gave me a hug, and a kiss on both sides of the cheek, and then took me and the group around Machpelah. What a difference there is in the approach! How important it is not to forget that.

III. The story about Shlomo that touches me so much was the time when he was invited to sing in a prison, and out come all the Jewish women prisoners. And he said, "Are these all the prisoners who are here?" They said, "Yes, but there are some Arabs; they don't want to come." And Shlomo went inside and said, "I can't perform, I can't sing if they don't come. Let me invite them myself." And he went to invite them.Comes to one of the cells, there's a woman sitting on the floor, sort of beating her head and crying. He asks, "What's going on?" And they tell him that her son was killed. So Shlomo took off his shoes and sat down outside of her cell, doing like in shiv'ah with her, grieving. A woman, Khaleda, was translating for him to her. She was there in that prison because of a bomb that she had planted. So it was a high security prison.After a while the Arabs all came to the big hall, and they were singing with Shlomo and dancing with him. And he was explaining a Torah based on "L'ma'an lo nayvosh v'lo n'kalaym"--may we not be made to be shamed nor defamed--all of us, if every one of us, if everything about us were known, wouldn't we also be behind bars?And beginning with that he finally got them to sing and to dance, including the wardens, now dancing with the Arab women. Can you see this? So it's a difference in approach, do you understand?

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